Mucous membrane pemphigoid

Mucous membrane pemphigoid is a rare chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the mucous membranes of the body, including the vagina, with blisters. The eyes and mouth are the most often affected, but the nose, throat, vulva and anus may be affected.

Symptoms of mucous membrane pemphigoid

  • Symptoms vary between people
  • Blistering lesions that eventually heal, sometimes scarring
  • Often appearing on head and neck
  • Recurrent blistering
  • Red and blistered mouth, gums, palate
  • Tender gums, may bleed easily
  • May affect oesophagus and larynx
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Conjunctivitis, one eye at a time
  • Skin may be involved with blisters or plaques that bleed or itch
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Alopecia
  • Frequent remit-relapse episodes
  • Can affect the vulva

Causes of mucous membrane pemphigoid

The cause is unknown, but it is an autoimmune disorder. Antibodies attack the basement membrane zone of the epithelium, allowing the skin to lift off and create the blisters. Genetics may be involved. Prescription drugs in some cases are responsible. Damage to skin may trigger the condition.

Women are affected twice as often as men, with the average age of onset after 60, but it can appear at any age. It may be underdiagnosed.

What else could it be?

Treatment for mucous membrane pemphigoid

Individualised treatment is required, depending on the area affected and how severe the condition is. It is likely to involve a team of specialists to deal with each area affected, for example, a dentist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, otolaryngologists and a gynaecologist.

Treatment may include antibiotics, steroids or immunosuppressive drugs. Surgery may be involved in some cases.

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Jessica Lloyd - Vulvovaginal Specialist Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)